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Saunier Duval's Jos Angel Gomez Marchante established himself as a prospective major tour contender when he scored a surprising victory in Saturday's closing time trial of the Tour of the Basque Country that also brought him overall victory. The 25-year-old Spaniard's time of 32-44 for the 24-kilometre course gave him victory by six seconds over stage one winner Alejandro Valverde, with Valverde's Caisse d'Epargne team-mate Toni Colom another couple of seconds back in third place.
The same three riders filled the final podium, with Gomez Marchante seven seconds clear of his two compatriots. Pre-time trial favourite Alberto Contador, who had been tied for the lead going into the TT with Samuel Sanchez, was a disappointing eighth in the time trial, which dropped him to fifth overall behind Patrik Sinkewitz. Sanchez finished sixth after taking 15th place in the time trial.
Very active all through this race, Gomez Marchante has frequently shown his willingness to attack Sanchez and the other contenders in the hills, but was not expected to challenge in the Zalla TT. Winner of just one pro race before today, a stage of the GP Correios de Portugal in 2004, Gomez Marchante really emerged onto the wider stage later that year when he finished eighth at the Vuelta.
Initially signed by Phonak for the 2005 season, the Spaniard switched to Saunier Duval when it seemed Phonak might not be accepted into the ProTour and had a string of good performances, notably seventh in the Dauphin Libr and ninth in Paris-Nice. Expected to challenge for the young riders' title at the Tour de France last July, he was forced out of the race after he was hit by a race motorbike at the end of the first week.
Today's success establishes Gomez Marchante high among the highly-rated group of Spanish talents that also includes Valverde and Contador. It also gave his team a huge boost after just one previous win this season by new pro Riccardo Ricco at the recent Coppi-Bartali stage race.
Victory for Valverde would have completed an unusual double on Saturday. The Grand National, Britain's biggest jump race of the season, was won by a horse called Numbersixvalverde. Unfortunately for the Caisse d'Epargne team leader, six was his deficit on the winner and he did not emulate his equine namesake's success.
Stage 6, Zalla time trial
1 Jos Angel Gomez Marchante (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 24km in 32.44 (43.99kph)
2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 0.06
3 Antonio Colom (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 0.08
4 Evgeni Petrov (Rus) Lampre 0.16
5 Patrik Sinkewitz (Ger) T-Mobile 0.18
6 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Discovery Channel
7 Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC 0.28
8 Alberto Contador (Spa) Liberty Seguros 0.29
9 Juan Jos Cobo (Spa) Saunier Duval 0.36
10 Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Milram 0.37
11 Jason McCartney (USA) Discovery Channel
15 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel 0.51
Final overall standings
1 Jos Angel Gomez Marchante (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 20.31.47
2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 0.07
3 Antonio Colom (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
4 Patrik Sinkewitz (Ger) T-Mobile 0.19
5 Alberto Contador (Spa) Liberty Seguros 0.20
6 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel 0.42
7 Miguel A. M. Perdiguero (Spa) Phonak 0.44
8 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 1.11
9 Patxi Vila (Spa) Lampre 1.21
10 Jos Azevedo (Por) Discovery Channel 1.24
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